The NTF 4.0, a car built by a team of students from Laval University in Quebec, Canada, achieved an astonishing 2,487.5 mpg (US) a week ago at the 2010 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas in Houson, Texas. The feat earned the team the $US5,000 grand prize in the Prototype category, in which fuel-efficiency can be achieved through designs that are... well, that are as radically streamlined and lightweight as possible, really. The combustion-engined NTF (any ideas what that stands for?) was by no means the only impressive vehicle at the event, however.

The Eco-Marathon featured 42 teams representing 9 high schools and 28 universities from across the Americas, plus one team from Italy. Vehicles could be powered by any conventionally available energy source - the 47 vehicles competing in this year’s event incorporated engines powered by combustion, hydrogen/fuel cell technology, solar power and diesel. The object of the contest was simply to see which vehicles could travel the farthest distance using the least amount of energy, on a downtown Houston course.

The Laval team won in the Prototype category for the second year in a row - last year, they achieved an even more amazing 2,757.1 mpg. The event also included an UrbanConcept category, in which the vehicles had to be designed with practicality and real-world use in mind. The team from Indiana’s Mater Dei High School took the $5,000 grand prize in that category, for their 437.2 mpg combustion-engined car named George. This was also their second win in as many years.

Prizes were also awarded in areas such as ecologically-friendly construction, safety, and technical innovation.

“It is a clear demonstration that we're never too young to start making energy innovations and efficiency a priority,” said Mark Singer, global project manager for the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas. “It was inspiring to see these vehicles of the future on the streets of downtown Houston this year.”

As a point of reference, the current title-holder for World's Most Fuel-Efficient Vehicle is the hydrogen-powered ETH Zurich PAC-Car II, which in 2005 achieved 12,666mpg.